Turkish Telecommunications Directorate blocks access to 1,631 sites

Telecommunications Directorate blocks access to 1,631 sites

04 March 2009, Wednesday, ÖMER ÖRUÇ İZMIR

Access to 1,631 Internet sites has been blocked by the Telecommunications Directorate since 2007.
The Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) has blocked access to more than 1,600 Internet sites since 2007 as requests flooded the institution to put an end to obscenity, prostitution and sexual exploitation of children through Web sites.

TİB announced that close to 22,900 requests were submitted and that it has cut off access to 1,631 sites since May 23, 2007.

A law that went into effect on Nov. 23, 2007, gave prosecutors and courts the legal right to block access to certain Web sites. Blocking access to Web sites has caused much embarrassment to Turkey as some have exploited the system against freedom of speech, but the law has also served a good purpose as a majority of the sites shut down had content encouraging drug use, illegal gambling and obscenity, including the sexual exploitation of children.

Popular video-sharing Web site YouTube was blocked 11 times, mostly because of clips that allegedly insulted the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The decision to block YouTube on those grounds was protested by freedom of speech activists.

Officials from the TİB indicated that they aim to protect the family structure. Osman Nihat Şen, head of the TİB’s Internet division, told Today’s Zaman that they do not get involved in politics but are responsible for protecting universal ethics and laws, Atatürk’s principles and reforms and the indivisibility of the country, state and nation.

‘Everyone is able to appeal our decision to block a Web site. The fact that there were no appeals so far shows how meticulously we act and that we never act with the aim of censorship,’ he said, adding: ‘However, because of the structure of the Internet, a full ban is not possible. Our precautions only make it difficult to access some sites.’

Of all requests, more than 2,600 (11 percent) concerned sexual exploitation of children through Web sites. TİB blocked 621 such sites. Another line of complaints was in regard to obscenity on the Internet and 585 such sites were blocked. About 2,300 requests were about prostitution through the Internet and resulted in TİB blocking 21 sites.

Regarding crimes against Atatürk, more than 2,000 people complained and 52 related sites were blocked by TİB. TİB blocked 90 sites on the grounds that they facilitate gambling, three sites for facilitating access to harmful substances and one site for encouraging suicidal behavior.